High Number of Boreholes in a Community can’t cause earthquake: Myth-conception or Reality?


By Sampson Ikemitang

This piece is in response to an article published in The Punch Newspaper of 29th July, 2023, purportedly credited to Professor Biodun Badmus, a lecturer at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
According to the publication, the University Don has said that drilling many wells or boreholes in a specific area cannot cause an earthquake.
Professor Biodun made the assertion during the celebration of the Association of Water-Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners’10th anniversary and inauguration of the Ogun State Executives in Abeokuta, the State capital.
According to him, available data showed that drilling boreholes had nothing to do with earthquakes, adding that “there wouldn’t be tremor”. However, he said, lack of adequate geographical surveys was responsible for the failure to get water after digging boreholes.
Contrary to Professor Biodun’s assertion, an earth scientist and lecturer at the University of Abuja, Professor Ishaku Mallo, in a chat with THE WHISTLER, an online publishing platform had said, drilling of boreholes can cause the ground to shake while excessive extraction of water can make the ground sink. He added that “as you are drilling these boreholes into the ground, there is a vibration in the ground. These shaking vibrations can easily cause dislocation of the plates in the ground.
Since drilling has brought cracks in the soil, the excessive extraction of groundwater can make the ground sink. The sinking down of the earth makes the ground moves. Even if it goes down a little, it can cause the whole FCT to shake because the balance of the earth has been distorted”. He explained.
According to the learned Professor, “People don’t realise that pressure on the environment has its negative effects. You see a Thirty-year-old tree and you cut it, if you plant another one, it may take another Thirty years to get to that point. Yet, there is indiscriminate felling of trees, digging of the ground and indiscriminate making of dams”. All these things have negative effects on the environment. He warned!
Recall that Professor Mallo was one of the sixteen-man team of experts invited by the Federal Government to investigate the remote causes of the tremor that occurred in Mpape and parts of Maitama District, in the nation’s capital city sometimes, in 2018, with a view to making far reaching recommendations.
Similarly, a water resources expert and the Executive Director/CEO of the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission, Engr. Magashi Umar has decried the level of boreholes proliferation in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. He revealed recently that Abacha Barracks (Mogadishu Cantonment), might experience tremors if something is not done to address the rate of borehole drilling in the area.
His words: “I have been talking to the Driller’s Associations. This has been a menace; the problem is that the commission cannot stop private individuals from drilling boreholes. That is why you have all the proliferation of boreholes, as the water board cannot provide sufficient water to the people.
“It is a significant cause of problems in the country, particularly the tremor in Abuja. We had a problem in Mpape; another one might be around the Abacha Barracks, where we have the new estates. I was there last time; there were a lot of boreholes everywhere. We need to be more organised. The Water Resources Bill is not saying people should not drill boreholes, but to be more organised in doing so,” he said.
Bashir urged that there is need for landlords to jointly drill boreholes instead of embarking on several drilling projects that will cause harm to the environment.
It will be recalled that the Federal Executive Council had in May 2007 approved the establishment of the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission (NIWRMC). The Commission is essentially to assist the Honourable Minister of Water Resources to regulate and control the rights by all persons to develop and use water resources shared by more than one State.
The Commission has three key distinct roles which include: Definition of standards; Regulation of water resources development as well as Water resources planning and management. It is worthy of note that the Commission regulates the activities of Association of Water-Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners (AWDROP) and Borehole Drillers Association in Nigeria (BODAN), through issuance of operational licenses.
In the same vein, some experts in the water resources sector opined that over 110, 000 boreholes have been drilled within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. As such, they have warned that indiscriminate drilling of boreholes and extraction of water from the ground are capable of upsetting the equilibrium of the earth as well as causing land subsidence and violent tremor in the future.
Recall that episodes of earth tremors in Abuja and its environs, Niger, Kaduna, Ogun, Bayelsa, Rivers, Oyo and Kwara States have left tell-tale signs of re-occurrence. As a result, analysts have ascribed the earth tremors being experienced to environmental factors such as blasting of rocks, felling of trees, indiscriminate drilling of boreholes and other surface and groundwater activities. In other words, many commentators are of the view that borehole proliferation in the country is not only worrisome but also disturbing; and called on the government at all levels to tackle the scourge head on.
Meanwhile, the controversial statement credited to Professor Biodun that drilling many boreholes in a specific area can neither cause earth tremor nor earthquake, has sparked nationwide conversation on the issue. While many have wondered why a man of such calibre should indulged in this kind of propaganda also, questioned the validity of his claim. Others have described his action as contradicting the government’s attempt to find lasting solutions to the menace of borehole drilling in the country.
Suffice it to say, beyond the universities developing and turning out relevant and impactful graduates with skills, knowledge and disposition needed to meet the requirements of the society; they also have onerous responsibility of undertaking scientific research necessary for achieving innovation, discoveries and technological invention.
Therefore, in the face of this seeming confusion and contradiction, it is incumbent on the university community to rise up to the occasion and redeem its image. Members of the ivory towers are urged to refrain from making utterances that are not direct consequence of any known research. A situation where a high ranking academic like Professor Biodun, makes overt pronouncements that are devoid of any painstaking research is utterly unacceptable and should be discouraged by all and sundry. The university community must intensify effort at interrogating the claim by conducting further research where necessary, particularly, as it relates to the issue of borehole drilling, with a view to stating the correct position. All hands must be on deck to place the country on the path of sustainable growth and development.

Sampson Ikemitang is a Resident Information Officer (RIO) at the Commission